“Rest me in Chinese colours” – Some rhyming couplets on a chance meeting of China and Ezra Pound

The room they stayed in, of burnished gold,
Sleeps in monarchical hues, like queens of old.
We cannot enter, desecrate
This looking glass that lets fall its duties of state
Stands traitor – a window, a mirror, in its way,
A fallen guard, exposing newly-weds where they lay.
Did they look out, from their private paradise
Imagine, in centuries to come, world-weary eyes
That rest in colours of consummation
Like holes in towers in a walled in nation.
Alas, poor Ezra, institutionalised
Whose images left him undisguised
What poetry can save the wearied gaze?
What rest for the walker of forbidden ways?

Watch Tower 14

If you died building the wall, they say,
You were buried within it. Upright, maybe,
So you could still see the enemy coming
And stand your ground. Or, if you lay,
Your hands folded, perhaps, you could count
The soles of hurrying feet. Windows and
Arches open the sky in shapes of fear that
Slide along the walls of Watch Tower 14.
Hills of blue and square skies threaten to fall
On the reclining or upright dead, like enemy
Feet, with truncheons and knives. A wall
Is such a fragile bridge between living
Deaths and dying lives.

Rub For Luck

There is a lion at the gates. Fierce of eye and
Sharp of tooth though he be, he is burnished
To glory by hands on his shoulders, his mane, his
Knee. A hundred outstretched hands, a thousand
Palms a day, on lion-hair spikes and hammered
Nails, once meant to impale all desire for entry
Through the doors to these forbidden
Cities of hope, gleam with the yearnings
Of millions of fingers. A kind of earning
Of lustre lost in the service of kings. Things
Of iron can endure, it seems, till the hidden
Glories of tempered gold burnish each touch
Each pilgrim’s and seeker’s hand saying ‘thus much
Do I render unto Ceaser that which
Can never be his: an empire of stubborn dreams
The sum total of which is this, this forbidding nail
Rubbed gently aglow. Who is savior? Who redeems?’
Look upon these hands, commoner and king
Holier than the celestial harmonies of the house of Ming.

How to live in a world that will end tomorrow

You go to the sidewalk and you
Call out a name any name that
Comes first to your mouth you
Don’t look North you don’t
Look South it’s all the same at
The beginning of the end everyone’s
Your friend the guy frying eggs
On a thela by the street omelettes
People buy in a hurry to eat the
Kid kicking cans in a fenced off
Lawn the women eyeing the
Flip flops that you had on because
You knew there wasn’t going to
Be a dawn that this heartbreaking
Sunset was just another con why
Would the threadbare family care you’re
Just passing through they live
There on the edge of paths that
Pass them by blowing out clouds that
Blot out the sky you should think twice
If you’re going to do this think of all
The great stuff you’re going to
Miss the house you won’t step into the
Fields you’ll never see the trick of
The light that makes you think you’re
Prettier than you used to be but the
Time has come you’ve had your
Walk no leisure left to stop take stock the
World will end tomorrow and you
Should call out a name so that the
Monsters in the morning will know
Whom to claim.

Silver and Old Rose

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Sunday brought a silver-dark bowl
Lustrous with the shadowing
Of the hundreds of Sundays that
Bore it, cities and homes and hands
That held it. Strings of beads, bright
Stones, little guest towelettes –
Every room and table it graced has
Traced its story in muted light
The shine of dark silver undulled.
This Sunday I took out the plant it harboured
And gently rubbed the years away.
The scrub held my greyish rue, even
The towel clutched stains of regret
I repotted the plant and put in dried roses
Instead. This is perhaps the work of Sundays
Transmuting shadows into roses
The silver ready for the ink of future memories
Holding the old ones in red.

For Girish Karnad: A Whitsun Song From the Road

Tell me why the road needs a song
It isn’t a winding river shining
In the sun. Tell me why it brings 
Hidden meanings to the pen, unbidden
Yearnings that flock to the fore and when
The road turns, the wanderer in you
Learns how much you long for beauty
Without the thorns. Tell me why,
Now that Karnad is dead, the road
Might meander away from where
He led. Tell me stories mile-stoned
By the rocks you hurl into
The way ahead. Now that Gibran
Is gone from our memories and our
Libraries change their histories, tell me
Who will collect, catalogue, call
Our songs of those blocks where we
Stumble and fall. Tell me why we sing
Our heartbreak when the roads we take
Are the driven-paved paths we make.

Brimketill, Reykjanes

Why do they let it go, the sea
Back to its roil and tumble
The clefts, the nooks, the craggy 
Holes can’t seem to hold on to
The rushing blue and white the
Blackness of the rocks darker
As they let it slip through
Their fingers, tears down the faces
Of cliffs. Why do they not keep
The frantic waters sheltered in
Steep hollows, shallows with no
Traces of the deep, silent
Holding its grief in sleep. Why would
The ocean crash into stony
Arms if its heart was not bent
On seeking its keep.

Rocks Seen From the Edges of Cliffs

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Last night I dreamt my body was in revolt again
That I had never learnt to be afraid of spiders
And they were attacking me again. That the fear
Of hissing noises and hanging from cliffs
Had never rewired my brain and now I was
Falling, reaching for slithering vines with
Venom in their teeth. And I think how billions
Of deaths have not taught us what to do
With grief. So many, I had not thought death
Had not taught us so many truths and ways to
Go on living. No phobias, no thicker skins,
No recoil from the hiss and bite of grief. How has
Evolution passed us by, I think. Maybe, as usual,
I have the wrong end of this writhing mess. Maybe
It is grief that keeps us human in the face
Of so much ugliness.